Jim Boeheim has rarely been a proponent of his players leaving school earlier that he thought they should and, at 73 years old, he’s hardly a man that has held his tongue when he has had something to say, so it really should come as no surprise that the Syracuse head coach was not a fan of Darius Bazley’s decision to back out on attending Syracuse and turn professional.
He was similarly critical of the 6-foot-9 18 year-old’s decision to bypass playing basketball during the 2018-19 season.
“You see any freshman that comes in, like we had Malachi [Richardson] and Tyler Ennis. When they have a good freshman year and their college team wins; that’s a big advantage when you get an opportunity to move into the NBA,” Boeheim told ZagsBlog. “Now they’ll have nothing to look at except the McDonald’s Game and the limited games he played. I think he’s got tremendous upside, but I think it will cost him. I think he could’ve moved into the first round with a good college year. I don’t know if he can be a first-round pick now. They’ve got nothing to go by.”
While I agree with Boeheim that Bazley probably would have been better off spending a year on campus, I’m not quite sure that sitting out the 2018-19 season will hurt him. As we discussed yesterday, Bazley is an under-developed and raw athlete with loads of potential that just is not yet ready to play at the G League level. He did not impress at the Nike Academy earlier this month, and he did not lock himself into a first round slot based on the way he played on the all-star circuit in the spring. Adding a bit of mystery into his scouting report — spending a year developing his body and his game away from the prying eyes of decision-makers and without having to prove himself against grown men and seasoned vets that happen to be former all-americans, both of the high school and college variety — is probably the right move at this point.
It’s important to note here: Bazley is not Mitchell Robinson. Robinson is in the top 1% of athletes at the NBA level. He is a rim-protector and a lob target that can run the floor like a gazelle with the mobility to be able to hold his own in a league that is increasingly reliant on switchable big men. It’s not a stretch to think he could end up being the next Clint Capela or DeAndre Jordan, and if it wasn’t for the myriad off-court red-flags he has, he probably would have gone top 20. Maybe higher.
Simply put, that ain’t Bazley.
He doesn’t have those kind of physical tools.
The best move he could have made was probably going to Syracuse.
But once he took that option off the table, sitting out 2018-19 was the smart play.